1912 - Race Car Tech Marches On


Check this image of George Boillot pitting his Peugeot L76 during the 1912 French Grand Prix. This is clearly a pit stop. In those days, the only people allowed to work on the car was the driver and his riding mechanic. Crew members could hand them items like wheels, tires, and fuel cans - but never touch the car.
Note the man at the bottom right corner with a wheel. This is an interesting point because it illustrates how auto technology was developing from its dawn in the waning years of the 19th Century to this point in 1912. The improvements in metallurgy allowed the use of wire wheels on the biggest race cars, such as this one. While wire wheels had been used on vehicles beginning with bicycles of the 1890's and on to lightweight automobiles, the tensile strength of the spokes was now to the point of supporting large cars.

Race car engineering has always been about balance so using strong, lightweight materials weren't about simply reducing weight, but distributing it to create superior handling. At this point, it became possible to simply swap out wheels with pre-mounted with tires.
Previously, the state-of-the-art in quick-change tires was pre-mounted rims that could be unbolted during pit stops and swapped with a fresh tire. This was necessary because they used heavy, artillery-grade wooden wheels that were conventional up to about the time this image was created. That breakthrough came to the surface six years prior in 1906 when Renault's Ferenc Szisz won the inaugural French Grand Prix - the world's first Grand Prix. Prior to that, pit stops could take 10 minutes or more as the men changed the giant, heavy wood wheels.
Time marches on. That's one of the significant points to this photograph. In just six years we see this huge advance in wheel technology - but not always obvious to casual observers today.
Note, too, that Boillot's riding mechanic appears to be hopping back in the car. My guess is they had just completed their work. The Peugeot L76 was the most advanced racing machine in the world and its technology influenced design for decades. Boillot delivered on its promise, winning this two-day race.
You, too, can marvel at this seminal moment in our sport - and so much more. However...you need to click thru to the amazing history that comes to life at...First Super Speedway.